Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap

Subject: Re: electroacoustics - rap to tap
From: nick storring (
Date: Thu Jul 01 2004 - 11:44:54 EDT

I've noticed a strange undercurrent whenever this topic and other related
topics come up on here. Seems as though whenever some people feel as if ea
is under attack... particularly the academic branch of ea, people race to
the defence of ea, citing Aphex Twin alongside Yves Daoust and insisting
that is a diverse, umbrella term for this music.

I'm not trying to be over-critical of this (John Oliver's) point of view,
however, I can see exactly how John Nowak has arrived at his perspective on
ea and I feel that perhaps, this is something which is consistently
overlooked on this list when "ea" comes up.

I do agree that ea is NOT a matter of taste... and that it is not a blanket
term for dry academic stuff... However, I find it interesting that I had
never heard of "electroacoustic music" before I went to music school. I had
heard it of course, but never with that terminology applied to it. And,
while "electroacoustic" to "us" (people on this list (and similar ones),
music students, profs et. al) emcompasses techno/ IDM, hip-hop, noise,
ambient etc. I think the term is very seldom shot around outside of more
academic circles. Furthermore, people who use the term often are composers
of a certain style of music (hinted at by Nowak),

And while I don't subscribe to all of Nowak's qualitative judgements, there
is a certain amount of truth to what he is saying. People do observe
stylistic trends among the music people who use the ea tag. and to some,
this music sounds over-clean, and restrained, and academic....

So while we use it as an umbrella term, people on the outside often link the
term to music by canonized (frequently) "academic" (for lack of a better
word) composers: Stockhausen to the whole empreintes digitales scene... In
addition, has anbody ever heard a techno artist like Richard D. James refer
to themselves as ea??.... I have not. In fact last I checked, Aphex Twin
had staunchly distanced himself from the whole electroacoustic thing and was
calling the Sonic Arts Network the Sonic Arse Network.

And even in the broader circle of people who enjoy experimental music, look
for instance at Wire Magazine. How often is the ea used in there? From my
experience not very often... And when it is used, frequently it is employed
in conjunction with composers which appear on the "Modern Composition" page
at the back, and not the one which says "Electronica," "Critical Beats,"
"Dub", etc.

Also, while there is a certain amount of cross-pollination from other ea
genres, generally the stuff produced by "electroacoustic composers" descends
from a lineage of music with an academic basis. That is, while it is
supposedly an umbrella term, the tendency among composers of ea music does
not seem to lean toward embracing things like techno, hip-hop, noise, etc
and audibly incorporating them into their music. I'm not accusing ea of
conservatism, rather I am merely trying to point out the ways in which some
could see ea as a specific genre, like techno or rock or something.

At any rate, I want to emphasize that I'm not trying to assail the argument
expressed by John Oliver, however... I think that it's important to
recognize that outside of the ea community, the term is either unknown or
often associated with the music of people who use the term, exclusively (ie.
not with techno etc.). And, largely these participants are affiliated
somehow with a music/ sound art institution of some sort... either as former
students or as teachers.

Nick S.

>John Oliver wrote:
>On Jun 30, 2004, at 1:10 PM, John Nowak wrote:
>>In my mind, electoacoustic music means academic sounding music. Usually a
>>bit dry, not very high speed or intense, often fairly restrained, making
>>use of certain techniques (granular synthesis, cellular automata, etc),
>>etc. And although I'm hesitant to make such a claim... often lacking any
>>significant emotion, and more focused on intellectual involvement (not
>>that I have a problem with that).
>Maybe you mean 'bad' academic music. Is Yves Daoust's music 'academic'
>because he now teaches at the Conservatoire de Montreal? I don't think he
>did in 1979. Perhaps it might be more interesting to talk about what you
>like or don't like and give reasons, rather than make generalisations about
>genre? Do you like Aphex Twin better than Yves Daoust? (Both are
>electroacoustic.) If so, tell why. (Just an example.)
>The definition of "electroacoustic music" is not a matter of taste. It's
>not much of a definition to say "that dry intellectual stuff is
>'electroacoustic' and this intense stuff that blows me away"
>Is the Austrian group called Granular Synthesis "not electroacoustic"
>because it's relentless, intense, visceral, and dangerously loud?

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